Alternate Strategies for Managing Chronic Pain

By Ally Yeatts

Chronic pain is an ever-growing health care management need that crosses age, gender, and race boundaries.  Increased awareness of alternatives to manage chronic pain may supplement or even replace the use of medications that have their own risks associated.  Since September is Drug Free Pain Management Month, here are a list of some of the most popular alternatives to traditional medicine.

Yoga:Yoga continues to grow in popularity, and like physical therapy, encourages exercise through controlled movement and stretching.  The benefits of yoga have been proven through years of study, and with the increase in access to online media, yoga programs for all needs and levels of difficulty can be easily found through streaming devices and YouTube.  Yoga may also promote overall wellness if patients are able to engage in classes with other participants.

Acupuncture: Acupuncture has grown in popularity as patients seek further alternatives to medication managed chronic pain.  The Mayo Clinic reports that acupuncture focuses on using needles placed in strategic points to stimulate nerves, muscles and other tissues to resolve pain and increase overall wellness.  

Massage:While it’s easy to assume that a good massage will relax your stress away, also remember that for some with chronic pain, it can be an effective pain reliever.  A study from Annals of Medicine found that 40% of participants that received 60 minute weekly massages found improvement in pain when compared to 4% in the control group.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy:  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a newer approach that comes from a cognitive behavioral background.  Psychology Today notes that ACT encourages 3 keys: Accept your reactions and be present, Choose a valued direction, and Take action.  There have been numerous studies that have found clinical significance in the effectiveness and efficacy of ACT for management of chronic pain, and further studies are ongoing.

Mindfulness:  Who hasn’t heard of mindfulness now-a-days with how popular it has become!  While mindfulness is easier said than done, some research is suggesting that practicing mindfulness can aid in focus and management of chronic pain.  The Mayo Clinic reports on a 2015 study by Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., and his colleagues, which found that brain images of participants who received mindfulness as treatment had less activation in the parts of their brains that manage pain message. These skills can be developed through a patient’s own research and practice, or with the help of a behavioral health provider.  

There exist multiple opportunities to discuss drug free pain management with our patients.  The options listed are available right here in the New River Valley, and many options can be budget friendly.  Getting creative and managing chronic pain no longer have to be mutually exclusive.